As adults, many of us feel we need to pretend we are master minders and know everything worth knowing – preferably better than anyone else. We are not supposed to say ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I have not thought about it’ – that would make us seem uneducated, uninformed and potentially ignorant – hence we pretend we have already given the topic of discussion some thought and offer an opinion. Sometimes we find ourselves in shallow water trying to say as little as possible yet giving off the impression we know exactly what is being discussed. It is part of not loosing face. Why is it that important?
Google is a good friend (if not the best) and we have all undertaken research on topics we feel uncertain about. What is not on Google does not exist, we sometimes say with humour. However, some things not even Google can help you with – to retrieve the innocence you once asked questions with. As we grow older, we are faced with the need to act as enlightened, literate and knowledgeable beings - asking too many ‘how’s’ and ‘why’s’ does not quite go along with the ‘I know everything image’. We might say, ‘I don’t know enough about this topic, but...’ – hence despite admitting we do not have knowledge about something; we still try to convey an opinion regardless.
Through children one is reminded of the days when asking questions was legitimate and these got asked with an unknowing innocence ‘what does that mean’ or saying ‘I don’t know’. You might not even be able to provide the little one a satisfying reply yet once you wondered about exactly the same. As adults we “know” yet we do not always know the degree to which we know (something).
If I say ‘I don’t know what I’m talking about’ you should feel relieved that I know that I don’t know. Pretending knowledge is a way of exercising control. Not knowing screams vulnerability. Socrates said once ‘I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.’ In saying ‘I know that I know nothing’ does not mean that the author says he knows nothing. Rather it indicates that one cannot know anything with absolute certainty.